Sunday, April 10, 2011

"Thank you all for being a threat."

I attended the Will Potter lecture at MonkeyWrench Books tonight, and am very glad I did. It had been a while since I had been to one of these sorts of events, and I always find them inspiring. The last thing I recall attending there was a discussion on the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act a while back, and I was not nearly as impressed. The discussion tonight, like the AETA discussion I went to over a year ago, was hosted by an animal rights activist, but in this case the speaker was also a well-spoken journalist.

To provide a little bit of background, Will Potter is a former Austinite who recently had a book published on the animal and earth liberation movements called Green is the New Red: An Insider's Account of a Social Movement Under Siege. In it, Will follows various members of the movement who have been victims of government surveillance, prosecution, and imprisonment (somewhat analogous to the "red scare" in the early to mid-20th Century that targeted suspected communists) and also provides analysis of the situation and ideas for the future.

After opening by reading a couple of excerpts from the book, Will spoke about the "green scare" in more general terms. He began by defining terrorism as “non-state violence,” and showed examples of the collusion between the federal government and large corporations in targeting "eco-terrorism." He painted a convincing picture of why this so-called “terrorism” has been so fiercely maligned. Unlike most that I've read and seen in the past on this subject, Will argued that the fear of animal and environmental rights activists is so strong not because of irrational fears of the left, but because of very rational, well-reasoned fears of the economic impact these activists are having. In other words, they fear us because we are winning.

Although Will did not mention this specifically, it got me thinking about how the public has often been supportive of animal liberation actions in the past, even among those who do not otherwise support the animal rights agenda. Tying this in with Will's examples of anti-green marketing in the media, I think it helps explain all the money put into large-scale campaigns against the animal rights movement. There has been a concerted effort to convince persons sympathetic to attacks on corporate profits to realign their thinking and view these actions as on par with violent forms of terrorism.

As an aside, I found myself somewhat distracted by Will's belt and shoes, which looked convincingly like leather. However, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume they were faux, based on his otherwise consistent animal rights knowledge, although he did not speak specifically to his veganism.

Because I bought a copy of the book, I hope to write in more detail my thoughts on his writing and the movement in the near future. Ideally, I will also be inspired to take a more active role in fighting for animal rights, but we'll see how that goes.


  1. I completely disagree with the author's comparison of "green" as the new "red". It's like comparing a marble to the moon. Yes, they're both spherical, but that's where the similarities stop. The "red scare" was a well-defined, partially state sponsored, infiltration and subversion by highbrow intellectuals. It represented communism, which represented the USSR. So I'm directly tying 'red' to 'USSR' here...

    No such derivative state sponsorship exists within the green movement. The 'green' scare consists of middlebrow unintellectuals (perhaps not anti-intellectual, but clearly not the liberal intelligentsia McCarthy targeted in the 1950's). The greens also lack the unity of true communists. There is no manifesto (unless you took Silent Spring and Animal Liberation) and there is no state sponsoring the movement. There is no consistent ideology either: As a vegan, I found Michael Pollan's book ridiculous and anti-progressive, but locovore's loved it. Since both groups fall under the nebulous banner of "green" the term becomes muddled and diffuse. "Organic" wingnuts are also thrown into the fray, and these people will happily consume Washington apples in Texas and feast heartily on USDA organic cow flesh without seeing any contradiction. It the 'movement's' teeming hypocrisy that makes me doubt there really is a movement, or at least it makes me doubt that the movement could ever hope to cohesively alter policy on a large scale.

    I wouldn't read the book because it's very title juxtaposes two unrelated non-movements and attempts to persuade the reader to grant credence to the author's claims for which he, as I've already shown, cannot possibly have any evidentiary basis. Most damning of all to the book and its message may be the fact that the "red scare" seems, in historical context, to be a complete fabrication by McCarthy and his disciples. While his persecution was a true witch hunt (as witches aren't real, neither were subversive covens of communists in America), the purported persecution of green activists would be fully "true" in the sense that these people really do exist and are openly preaching seditious revolution of America's agricultural industry.


  2. The author's comparison of the radical animal rights/environmental movement with the Soviet-era "red scare" is not the thesis of the book, and he shies away from comparing them too closely. My guess is that the choice of titles was designed to sell more books. I do think it's important that the "green" left has been targeted as the number one domestic terror threat. I have to say that if we're just speaking in terms of priorities of the FBI, then his statement is fair.

    That's all I have. I think you're trying too hard on this one Michael.

  3. I do also, to some extent. Anyway, I'll let you know what I think of the book once I'm done, erroneous title notwithstanding.